Interview with a Food Chemist By Aaron Leizerovici
What if you could further enhance your wine and food flavours by adding an unsuspected element to your meal: water — mineral and sparkling water to be exact.
And what if you fancy beer over wine? While beer has not received much recognition in the past, it’s rapidly earning its stripes (and finding its place) in the culinary world.
Sceptical? BetterThanBrunch interviewed renowned food chemist, Dr. Peter Schropp, who will share his insights on shaking your taste buds with beer and water, and where you can learn how to pair these beverages with your dishes.
BTB: You are a Food Chemist by profession. Can you tell us a little more about your background?
DR. PS: I studied Food Chemistry at the Technical University in Munich, and I’ve been working for the Doemens Academy (institute offering seminars; schools offering master's degrees, where one can become one of the following: Brew Master, Food Master, or Beverage Master) for more than 20 years. I´m also a member of the Executive Board (for the Seminar Division). Professionally speaking, my focus is on soft drinks and mineral water.
BTB: That’s interesting! Where is Doemens located?
DR. PS: Doemens is located in Gräfelfing, Germany. Gräfelfing is a nice village located outside of Munich. When students are not in class, they will find themselves surrounded by all the beauty that is Bavaria. The S-Bahn commuter train allows quick access to downtown Munich, which provides our students with a great opportunity to learn more about Munich’s rich history, centuries-old architecture, and culture. Many students from abroad can plan to take a few extra days to explore Bavaria, Germany and even Europe.
What is your favourite beer? And what goes well with it?
DR. PS: My favourite beer is a traditional top-fermented, unfiltered Bavarian wheat beer. I love enjoying this refreshing, fruity beer in one of our Bavarian “Biergarten” (beer garden) here in Munich. You can pair this beer-type predominantly with a traditional Bavarian Obatzta — a special mixture of different kinds of cheese (above all, camembert) spiced with onions, bell peppers, and caraway.
I would also recommend pairing this beer with light dishes such as salad with cooked fish. I’m also fond of pairing fruity, wheat beers with sweet desserts like chocolate mousse, because the sweetness of the dessert is perfectly balanced with the fruity, sourness of the wheat beer.
Image of Doemens Academy by Dr. Peter Schropp
BTB: Do you have a favourite mineral water?
DR. PS: Regarding mineral water, I don´t have a favourite one, as I always have at least five or six different kinds of mineral water in my cellar. That is because each mineral water is consumed for specific situations. For example, I love cycling with my road bike, and I always need an effervescent water with an enhanced concentration of sodium, calcium, and magnesium after I finish my workout.
I also enjoy a good glass of red wine in the evening. In this situation, I would pair the red wine with a low, mineralized water, without any carbon dioxide (a still mineral water). Above all, I really enjoy the great diversity of European mineral waters, and I am always thirsty to discover new waters from all over the world!
Because I am so passionate about mineral water, I developed a system to describe the taste of water over the last ten years. Due to these findings, I established a German water sommelier course which has recently expand to an international course offered in both German and English.
Image of Mineral Water Darts by Dr. Peter Schropp
Beer tasting by Dr. Peter Schropp
BTB: How many professors/teachers do you have on staff? Can you tell me about their background?
DR. PS: Doemens employs food technologists and food chemists, as our other core areas of study include soft drinks, mineral water, and food.
Because beer is the focus of Doemens, most of my colleagues are Brewing Technologists and they give lessons in our Brew Master school. They also conduct presentations in our technical and technological seminars. My colleagues also provide consultancy services within the beverage industry.
BTW: How does Doemens differ from other beverage schools?
DR. PS: Doemens Academy was established in 1895 by the pharmacist Dr. Albert Doemens, as a training centre for the brewing industry. Since it has been established, Doemens has built a worldwide reputation as an international training and service institute, not only for the brewing industry, but also for the soft drink, mineral water, and spring water industries.
In contrast to many other beverage academies, the Doemens campus provides a complete practical brewing environment, allowing students the ability to apply their theoretical training in a real-world brewing environment. Our facilities include a pilot malting system, computer-controlled brew system, complete microbiology lab, and a Krones-designed bottle packaging line.
BTB: Tell me about some of the courses and seminars Doemens offers? Please explain.
DR. PS: We cover all relevant topics such as facility maintenance, quality control, hygiene and sterile procedure, managerial economics, and consumer and legal issues. We run basic training and professional development in dispensing equipment technology. We also offer in-house training for employees here in Germany, as well as internationally. The benefits are obvious: cost-effective scheduling, flexibility, relevant on-the-job-training in within the same facility, and custom-tailored content.
BTB: Can you tell me a little more about the partnership Doemens has with the Siebel Institute of Technology?
DR. PS: The World Brewing Academy (WBA) was established in 2001, as an alliance between Doemens and Siebel Institute of Technology (Chicago, U.S.A.), to provide students with a truly international education in brewing technology.
The programs offered by the WBA give students the unique opportunity to experience different brewing cultures on two continents, because the programs are dual-campus, split between Chicago and Munich. The International Diploma Course in Brewing Technology lasts 12-weeks and the Master Brewer Program takes 20 weeks.
BTB: Doemens offers a Water Sommelier certificate. How do people usually react to it?
DR. PS: The Doemens Water Sommelier course is unique! Next to a theoretical knowledge about the varying water types and their characteristics, the course is enriched with sensory trainings, group tasks, and field trips.
Truthfully, people were rather astonished when we first rolled out this course, with its respective activities. It’s a shame, really. Many people think “water is just water,” and they don’t realise the difference in taste or haptic sensation. However, everyone who attends our course will recognize that this is not true. Water is not just water! And every water has its own characteristics regarding its taste, haptic sensation, and health benefits.
BTB: There are other organizations offering Water Sommelier Certificates (like the German Mineral Water Association and A.D.A.M. Mineral Water Tasters Association, in Italy), what makes your Water Sommelier program different?
DR. PS: Our Water Sommelier program is the only one in English; therefore, it is the only international Water Sommelier program. Other German program providers offer only a short (two day) course without any sensory training. In my professional opinion, sensory training is indispensable for getting the title “Water Sommelier,” because tastings are the most important tasks of a Sommelier. For this very reason, I would implore anyone pursuing this title to receive fundamental sensory training, which is offered for instance by the Doemens program.
To be honest, I don't know too much about the Italian course offered by A.D.A.M. So, I cannot compare it with our program. But I appreciate every activity and every course which gives water the value it really deserves!